Death by Metal - Death by Metal (DVD) [MVD Visual - 2018]Death by Metal is a recent documentary about genre-defining & shaping Florida band Death, and their founding member/ mastermind Chuck Schuldiner. Here on MVD Visual is a region free DVD of the film and a good selection of juicy extras.
Really if you're into extreme metal, and I’d say extreme sound, in general, you’ll know the name Death- the band gave name to the genre of Death Metal, & then pushed its form to dizzyingly & complex heights. And along the way created some of the most celebrated albums not just of the Death Metal sub-genre, but metal in general, and wider progressive extreme music. Starting in 1987 with the release of their debut album Screaming Blood Gore- which is often quoted as the first ‘official’ entery in the genre. Later moving onto Human in 1991, that really defined the technical death metal form, & set a new standards of virtuoso extreme music.
The films certainly an extensive & definitive look at the band- with it’s nearing two-hour runtime. It starts from the band's origins in the early 80’s when Chuck started forming & playing the death metal form in his parents’ garage. Moving through the release of the bands debut, and the classic follow-ups like 1988’s Leprosy and the slightly more melodic tinged death metal of 1990’s Spiritual Healing, and beyond to the proceeding albums that brought technical & more experimental elements into the Death Metal form. We get a host of interviews with most of the key band members who worked with Schuldiner, as well as his sister & mother. Added to the interviews we get a host of live footage from though-out the band's career. With the whole thing, of course, ending on somewhat of a sad note, with the premature passing of Schuldiner at the age of 34 in 2001 from brain cancer.
Added to the interviews and concert footage, we get a rather interesting & edgy production look- that sees the album covers either take on 3D quality or literally coming to life- with overlaid old artwork, posters, adverts for band members, fanzine pages, etc. This makes the whole thing flow by nicely, though personally, I felt the film slightly too long, though more on that later.
On the whole, it’s certainly a very made, planned, and well put together documentary- really showing Schuldiner as a highly creative individual always wanting to push the envelope. And at times though it does feel a tad unbalanced study of the man, as we don’t really get much explanation why he didn’t turn up to a few early euro tours, or the reason he often drop members without any real notification- so I’d say it’s not a wholly rounded film…though of course when someone dies at such an early age, and family are heavily involved in a doc- it’s difficult to get a truly balanced outlook.
I mentioned early finding the whole thing too long- and this is coming from someone who has respect, and a passing interest in the band. For me, I just felt it would be a far more powerful, effective, and punchy film if they’d shaved off say half-an-hour or so, because as somewhat of an outsider I felt it did drag in places- but I guess if you’re a fan of the band you’ll find every moment worthy.
Extras wise on this DVD we get a good selection- first & biggest here is an hours worth of live footage from 1991- this shows the band at the height of their early powers and makes for a great watch after the main doc. Smaller extras come in the form of shorter interview featurettes- these each run around six & ten minutes apiece, and there must be around ten of these. Subject wise these cover discussions about early cover artwork, & Chuck’s mother (who was a key force behind him in the early years). As well as wider subjects as brief history of the Florida death metal scene, and histories of other key death metal bands Obituary & Sadus.
In conclusion, if you’re a Death fan, a fan of the wider Florida scene or a general death metal scene- this really, really is a no-brainer. If like me you wouldn’t call your self the biggest of Death fans, then I think it will still appeal, you just might find a bit too over lengthy in places. Meaning I don’t really think this would appeal to a wider audience- as at times its bit too in-depth for its own good.